Think you know how others should run their lives better than they do? Fancy yourself one of the intellectual elite tasked with molding the world into your own image? Love lording power over people?

You can serve on a federal “nudge squad!”

According to a document obtained by, the federal government has positions open in a newly created “Behavioral Insights Team.” These behavioral scientists will work with a large array of federal agencies molding public policy to help “nudge” Americans toward government-approved behaviors.

“Behavioral sciences can be used to help design public policies that work better, cost less, and help people to achieve their goals,” according to the feds.

Essentially, the team will study ways to manipulate Americans into buying into prescribed federal behaviors, such as paying taxes on time, adopting energy efficiency measures and eating the “right foods. The document lists several examples of U.S. and international policy initiatives already benefiting from the implementation of behavioral insights.

Increasing adoption of energy efficient measures: Offering an attic-clearance service (at full cost) to people led to a five-fold increase in their subsequent adoption of attic-insulation. Interestingly, providing additional government subsidies on attic insulation services had no such effect.

Former Obama regulatory czar  Cass Sunstein and Chicago Booth School of Business professor Richard Thaler coined the term “nudge” in a book by that title back in 2008. The duo “offers a new perspective on preventing the countless mistakes we make—ill-advised personal investments, consumption of unhealthy foods, neglect of our natural resources—and show us how sensible ‘choice architecture’ can successfully nudge people toward the best decisions.”

Thaler can’t imagine why anybody would oppose this idea.

“I don’t know who those people are who would not want such a program, but they must either be misinformed or misguided,” he told Fox News. “The goal is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government by using scientifically collected evidence to inform policy designs.”

But notice the inherent assumption: federal policy is absolutely, without question, flawless! Once the central planners in D.C. determine how you should live your life,  it only remains to design policy that will “nudge” you in that direction! Next step: utopia!

Big Brother knows best and he WILL get you to do what he wants – and you’ll like it! The document says the team will “help people to achieve their goals.” But in reality, it means the team will help us adopt goals approved by the federal government, and then will subtly manipulate us into playing along.

All for our own good, of course.

How wonderfully Orwellian! What could go wrong?

I mean aside from the fact that maybe, just maybe, the goals of the central planners don’t exactly serve our best interests. Or the fact that their policies just might create more problems than they solve. Or the distinct possibility that their ideas are ill-conceived and stupid.

“I am very skeptical of a team promoting nudge policies,”  Utah State University economist Michael Thomas told “Ultimately, nudging … assumes a small group of people in government know better about choices than the individuals making them.”

Of course, nannies like Sunstein, Thaler, Obama, Bloomberg and Bush think just that. They know best! And the world will evolve into a better place if they can just get the rest of us dumb Americans to go along.

This is nothing new. Those who fancy themselves part of the  elite, superior “ruling class” have harbored these ideas for centuries. Political philosopher and economist Frederic Bastiat railed against political writers and political elite of his day in the 1850s.

In fact, these writers on public affairs begin by supposing that people have within themselves no means of discernment; no motivation to action. The writers assume that people are inert matter, passive particles, motionless atoms, at best a kind of vegetation indifferent to its own manner of existence. They assume that people are susceptible to being shaped – by the will and hand of another person – into an infinite variety of forms, more or less symmetrical, artistic and perfected.

Moreover, not one of these writers on governmental affairs hesitates to imagine that he himself – under the title of organizer, discoverer, legislator, or founder – is this will and hand, this universal motivating force, this creative power whose sublime mission is to mold these scattered materials – persons – into a society.

These socialist writers look upon people in the same manner that the gardener views his trees. Just as the gardener capriciously shapes the trees into pyramids, parasols, cubes, vases, fans and other forms, just so does the socialist writer whimsically shape human beings into groups, series, centers, sub-centers, honeycombs, labor corps and other variations. And just as the gardener needs axes, pruning hooks, saws, and shears to shape his trees, just so does the socialist writer need the force that he can find only in law to shape human beings.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a tree to be shaped by some pointy-headed bureaucrat in D.C. guided by some self-righteous academician gazing down from her ivory tower. And spending federal dollars on this type of social engineering violates the constitution no less than passing federal laws dictating what we eat, or how we save for retirement. The feds lack this delegated power and they need to butt out.

An unconstitutional nudge is no better than an unconstitutional push.



Mike Maharrey

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